Blue Lights and Blue Cards: Can Tech Bridge the Gap Between Police and the Autistic Community?

Blue Lights and Blue Cards: Can Tech Bridge the Gap Between Police and the Autistic Community?

In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the interactions between law enforcement and individuals with autism. While some initiatives have been put in place to improve these interactions, the question remains: Are they enough? In this blog, we will explore several cases that highlight the urgent need for change, discuss existing initiatives like the blue envelope system, and introduce technological solutions that could make a difference.

Cases That Cry Out for Action

Eustis, Florida - October 16, 2021

The case of 20-year-old Louis Graihai is a glaring example of how the system is failing autistic individuals. The police tased him after mistaking him for a burglary suspect. The police claimed they did everything "by the book," but what book are we talking about here? One that doesn't account for the neurodiverse population? At Inno-Aut, we firmly believe that the "book" needs a rewrite.

Graihai's family argues that the police should have known a disabled man lived in the neighborhood. This raises a critical point: Shouldn't there be a system in place to inform law enforcement about the presence of neurodiverse individuals in a community? The lack of such a system is a glaring oversight that needs immediate attention.

The police's lack of awareness and preparedness in dealing with autistic individuals is not just an isolated incident but a systemic issue. It's high time we address this gap in our law enforcement agencies. The cost of ignorance is too high, and the price is often paid by the most vulnerable among us. see Source

Penn State - October 2019

The tragic case of 29-year-old Osaze Osagie is another heart-wrenching example of what can go wrong when law enforcement is not adequately trained to deal with autistic individuals. Osagie was shot and killed by police while they were serving a mental health warrant. The police narrative focuses on Osagie confronting officers with a knife, but what led to that point? Could the situation have been de-escalated if the officers had been trained to recognize and handle autistic behaviors?

At Inno-Aut, we can't help but wonder how many lives could be saved if law enforcement had the proper training and tools to deal with autistic individuals. The "shoot first, ask questions later" approach is not only outdated but also dangerous, especially for those who may not respond to commands in the way that neurotypical individuals do.

The officers involved were placed on administrative leave, per department policy, but is that enough? What steps are being taken to prevent such tragedies in the future? The need for specialized training and awareness is not a luxury; it's a necessity. see Source

New Bern, North Carolina - July 30, 2023

The case of 10-year-old Kayden Strayhorn is a stark reminder that the issue is not limited to adults. Strayhorn, a nonverbal autistic child, was handcuffed and had blood drawn without parental consent after a meltdown in a mall parking lot. The family argues that the situation could have been handled better, and we at Inno-Aut couldn't agree more.

The lack of understanding and compassion shown by the police is alarming. Strayhorn's meltdown was triggered by a change in routine, something that is often challenging for autistic individuals. Instead of approaching the situation with sensitivity, the police treated him like a criminal.

This incident raises several questions: Why aren't law enforcement agencies trained to handle such situations better? Why isn't there a standard protocol for dealing with autistic individuals, especially minors? The absence of such protocols is a glaring gap that needs to be addressed immediately. see Source

The Blue Envelope System

In Massachusetts, a bill is making its way through the legislature that proposes a novel way to improve interactions between law enforcement and drivers with autism. The bill suggests that drivers with autism can voluntarily show a blue envelope to police officers during a traffic stop or accident. This envelope, administered by the Registry of Motor Vehicles, would contain vital information about the driver's diagnosis, impairments, triggers, and emergency contacts.

The blue envelope system is a step in the right direction for several reasons. First, it provides immediate, crucial information to law enforcement, allowing them to adjust their approach accordingly. This could mean the difference between a routine traffic stop and a tragic incident. Second, it empowers autistic individuals by giving them a tool to communicate their needs in a situation where verbal communication may be difficult or impossible. Third, it has the backing of some law enforcement agencies, indicating a willingness on their part to improve interactions with the autistic community.

However, the system is not without its flaws. The most glaring issue is its limited applicability. The blue envelope can only be used if the autistic individual is in a position to present it, which may not always be the case. For example, what happens if the individual is in a state of meltdown or extreme stress and cannot present the envelope? Additionally, the system doesn't account for situations where law enforcement confronts an autistic individual from a distance, making it impossible to present the envelope before interactions occur.
see Source

A GPS-Based Solution

Given the limitations of the blue envelope system, a more comprehensive solution might involve technology that allows for identification from a distance. Imagine a GPS-based system that alerts law enforcement and medical personnel about the presence of an autistic individual in their vicinity. This could be integrated into the existing systems used by these agencies, providing real-time information that could be crucial in high-stakes situations.

At Inno-Aut, we are exploring the possibilities of such a GPS-based solution. While the blue envelope is a step forward, technology allows us to take a giant leap. Our vision aligns with creating a world where autistic individuals are not just accommodated but understood, where interactions with law enforcement are not feared but managed with empathy and skill.

BJJ Training: The Missing Link

While technology and legislative action are crucial, they must be complemented by comprehensive training for law enforcement. One promising avenue is the utilization of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by law enforcement. Gracie Jiu Jitsu, among other jiu jitsu schools, offers specialized courses for police that focus on leverage and grappling techniques to control suspects effectively. These techniques are not only highly effective but also less harmful, reducing the need for excessive force.

Jiu jitsu instructors have made a significant difference in policing by teaching officers how to control situations without resorting to lethal force. The techniques taught are designed to subdue suspects in a manner that minimizes harm to both the officer and the individual involved. This is especially crucial when dealing with autistic individuals who may not respond to verbal commands as expected.

The adoption of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques by law enforcement agencies could be a game-changer in how police interact with autistic individuals. It offers a humane and effective way to control situations, reducing the likelihood of tragic outcomes.

The intersection of autism and law enforcement is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. By combining legislative action, technological innovation, and comprehensive training, we can create a safer and more understanding environment for autistic individuals.

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